Fresh on the heels of a tax increase they approved in March 2004, residents in North Riverside Komarek School District 94 find themselves facing more debt as district officials complete previously unplanned improvements to the school’s security systems and an effort to make the school completely accessible to the physically handicapped.

On Aug. 30, the District 94 board will hold a bond hearing at 7:30 p.m. in the board room of Komarek School as it prepares to issue $500,000 in working cash bonds and an additional $60,000 of life safety bonds to help pay for the improvements, which are expected to cost in excess of $630,000.

“We’ve been debating the point all winter,” said District 94 Superintendent Neil Pellicci. “We’re aware of the impact, moneywise, in town. These improvements should keep us in very good shape for a while.”

Work on the improvements has been progressing all summer, although not all of them will be completed by the time school begins on Aug. 30.

The most expensive improvement to the school will be the addition of an elevator that will run from the basement to the second floor of the school, which was built in seven phases since 1913 and has five different levels within its two-story framework. In addition, electric lifts will be added at the second-story overpass and in the east building of the school.

The elevator and lifts alone are expected to cost $500,000.

While the school does not have many immobile students, the school layout poses several physical hurdles for those that are. In the past, the only way for those students to get from one floor to another was either to be carried or crawl up the stairs.

“The board felt that was not acceptable,” Pellicci said.

The board is issuing the working cash bonds to pay for the elevators and lifts since the state has refused to allow the lifts to be paid for using life safety funds. An unexpected asbestos abatement issue has also added to delays in getting the elevator installed. Pellicci said he expects the elevator to be completed by the end of October.

However, a new fire alarm system will be fully operational when school starts. According to Pellicci, the school’s old fire alarm system was installed in two phases, which weren’t coordinated. In addition, there were fire horns that on an infrequent basis failed to work when the system was triggered. Pressure from the North Riverside Fire Department also moved the board to approve that system change, which is expected to cost $130,000.

Finally, in response to a security breach at the school last year, the board approved installing new secured doors and reconfiguring the foyer to funnel visitors through the school office upon arrival.

“It will force people to check in first before they go into the school building,” Pellicci said.

The fire alarm and security doors are being paid for partly by the life safety bonds and partly by the school’s cash reserves.

The public is invited to attend the Aug. 30 bond hearing and members of the public will be allowed to comment at the hearing.

? Christina Peluso contributed to this report.